Catholics not Christians?

On a certain morning talk show I listen to occasionally (Dr. Laura) where folks call in for advice re relationships and moral issues etc. it seems there are increasing numbers of calls coming in from people (mostly women) concerned that their son/daughter etc. is dating or marrying a Catholic whom they do not consider to be “Christian”. I have to admit, even as a non-Catholic, I was dumbfounded when I heard the first of these calls but these folks (who I’m assuming are Fundamentalists of some stripe) sound absolutely certain that Catholics are not “Christians”.

The host, who is Jewish, doesn’t have (or make) the time to get at the basis for these beliefs and while politely scoffing at their prejudice mainly tells them to be polite and behave at whatever function they are calling about ie. wedding, baptism etc.

I am fairly curious, however, at what the basis for such a belief in Catholic’s non-Christian status might be? It is simply ignorance/stupidity or are Catholics too many degrees removed from basic Christian doctrine in their practice to qualify as “real” Christians to some believers?

You’d have to ask them, I guess. It could be that each caller has a different reason, all their own.

In general, a lot of people seem to form groups for the fun of pointing out who isn’t a part of them.

Having been raised Catholic (I’m not now, but I don’t blame them for that) I’ve gotten my share of bigotry and intolerance. My experience was that these people think Catholics are some kind of cult taking orders from that notorious one-world Antichrist, the Pope.

Granted there are some differences between Catholic dogma and various Protestant denominations, but Roman Catholicism is a fairly conservative form of Christianity – minus the Pope, I think many fundies would be comfortable with it.

Lotta religion threads in GQ today. Is there a second (or first) coming that I should know about?

Anyway, religion threads almost always belong in Great Debates. I’m leaving a few here as they are so far factual inquiries about how religions operate and what their beliefs are.

This one however, will turn into either a debate or a series of diatribes against fundie bigotry (ya just gotta trust me on this one, astro). So I’m going to move the thread to Great Debates and hope it doesn’t become a Pit thread.

Everybody hang on tight! The software’s been a little bumpy today.

Eh, they say the same things about Mormons. Mainly, if your church’s doctrine is not exactly the same as their church’s doctrine, you’re heretical and not a true Christian. Check out the LBMB for a sampling of such intolerance–I left it long ago because of the prejudice there towards people of my faith. I figure it’s their problem, not mine, if they can’t accept their fellow Christians as such. As long as they aren’t tarring and feathering Mormons (or Catholics, or Jews, or whoever is the hated flavor-of-the-day), I pay them no heed.

If you want a group on the verge of non-Christendom, look at Mormonism. They have, as a part of their rather strange belief system, the doctrine that humans may become deities, as opposed to beings to be reincarnated. (Don’t even start with me about angels. No human becomes an angel. In the Judeo-Christian system, angels weren’t made in God’s image. The idea of having an afterlife happening prior to Judgement is not a Judeo-Christian concept. [Try and find it in any Judeo-Christian bible.] It more closely fits with the polytheistic tribal beliefs of the American Aboriginals [indians for those who use the old term].) Therefore, they aren’t even strictly monotheistic. But the definition of Christian rests on following Christ’s teachings, even if you don’t consider him at all divine (and some denominations do not).

Interesting simulpost!

It’s unfortunately a common trope of anti-Catholicism to argue that Catholics are not Christians. For a great website on the subject, check out:

Generally, the argument goes that the Catholic church was contaminated by paganism when it became an official faith under the Roman Empire, and so only particular brands of fundamentalism have preserved a true Christian church. The problem with that argument is that the particular Catholic practices that bug anti-Catholics can be traced to the Bible or to the earliest writings of the Church Fathers, long before Christianity attained legal status.

Issues like this can easily create flame wars, and might get this thread moved to Great Debates. In the meantime, check out also It’s a Catholic apologetic (apologetic in the less common meaning of explaining and justifying the faith) organization that provides clear explanations of a lot of this.

You ain’t kidding, Tom. And they both came in GQ, before I got a chance to move the thread. I’m awarding myself the most well-timed thread move of the day award.

My prize is a cold beer.

The principle objections against the Christian nature of Catholicism by a few Fundamentalist groups hinges on the belief of Sola Scriptura (Only Scripture) that was promulgated during the Reformation. Many of the practices and teachings of the RCC have developed throughout its 1900 years of existence (1400+ years at the time of the Reformation). In reaction to some of the very real abuses that had crept in to the practices, the reformers looked to find a single, solid core of belief that could not be corrupted by developing traditions. They turned to Scripture as that core.

That sounds simple enough, but life is never simple. Scripture did not appear in a void. It is the Catholic position that Scripture arose from Tradition and encapsulated the true core of the beliefs, but that Tradition does not die when Scripture is written and Tradition provides commentary and explanation on the Scriptures. Immediately, we are at an impasse.

Beyond that, there is the very question “What is Scripture?” For the Christian New Testament, all the Christian religions are pretty much in agreement. However, there were books in circulation at the time of Jesus that were looked upon as spiritual guides and were included by the early Christians as part of the Old Testament. After Christianity had gotten going, Jewish Scholars closed the Jewish canon, reviewing many of the works that the Christians were using and setting them outside the Jewish canon as not maintaining the actual beliefs of Judaism. 1400 years later, when Martin Luther was reviewing the whole Christian canon, he set aside any book that had not been included in the Jewish canon on the grounds that, if the OT is the Jewish testament, then we cannot include works that they do not include.

(It did not impede his decision, in any way, that several Catholic practices and teachings that he opposed were supported by appeals to those books.)

For the next 400+ years, Catholics and Protestants simply accused each other of abandoning the “real” Faith without much regard to what Christianity meant. In the 20th Century, the Ecumenical Movement looked on the Catholic/Protestant Schism as a scandal against the teachings of Jesus and many people have begun looking to see whether the groups have more in common than we originally fought about.

Some groups on each side, however, are much more comfortable damning their “opponents” than trying to come together in Christian charity. Among the Catholics, this is usually manifested by people claiming that Catholicism is the “One True Church” (often claiming that the Second Vatican Council was a hoax or worse). Many of these Catholic groups appeal to the memory of Pope Pius X as their patron while “defending” the church against heretical assaults. Among Protestants, this is usually manifested by people claiming that Catholicism is actually ancient paganism reborn,led by “the Whore of Rome” and all that gibberish.

(Catholics had a rallying cry for years, “Outside the church, no Salvation!” This has been understood for a good many years to mean that the whole Church (as the Body of Christ) including all the Christian community brings the message of Salvation to the world. Some Protestants (falsely) state that Catholics are still claiming that one has to be Catholic to be saved. In answer, I like to point out that the last Catholic priest in the U.S. who stood up and proclaimed that all non-Catholics were going to Hell was excommunicated for not backing down on that issue. [Fr.Feeney of Boston in the early 1950’s.])

There are extremists in just about every faction of faith. The fact that the Protestants essentially told the Catholic Church that they thought the RCC was misguided an wanted autonomy led to hurt feelings all around did not exactly make it easy for them to reconcile negative thoughts towards the misguided, overbearing, false-tradition-expounding Roman Catholic Church with the misguided, unappreciative anarchistic Protestants (depending on which side you were on).

Now, in spite of what some Protestants think, the RCC does not now say that theirs is the only way to salvation. Maybe at one point they did, but not in some time. And I don’t think there are (m)any denominations which will flat-out say that Catholics are not saved, but there are certainly people within the denominations - some of whom do wield some power or influence or stature - who feel this way.

If anyone wants to see this in microcosm, head over to the Left Behind Message Board and look for posts by Shamdaut64 and Sierra, two anti-Catholic posters who feel it their obligation to show Catholics just how misguided they are. And do so in the most vile and misrepresentative ways, I must add. Or check out a Chick Tract if you have the stomache for it.

While the RCC certainly needed reform, and you can argue that the only way for this reform to come about was with the Protestants breaking away, ultimately the RCC was right about one thing: The Protestants splintering away from “The Church” would lead to further splintering and even further, and this would create divisions and strife.

I believe there are and have been over 25,000 denominations of Christianity, and we can all see about the divisions this has caused.

On a personal note, between this and the Jewish persecution at the hands of Catholics, I have to wonder what God thinks of all of this.

Yer pal,

One month, one week, three days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 8 seconds.
1622 cigarettes not smoked, saving $202.85.
Life saved: 5 days, 15 hours, 10 minutes.

Here is a good look at this particular belief:

Check out the other fine works that address your question, such as ‘Why is Mary Crying?’ and ‘The Death Cookie’.



Even though I mentioned Jack Chick above, I still had to go and look at some of his tracts. My, what a hateful and scared man. It’s people like him who give Christianity a bad name.

I looked at a tract called “Last Rites,” and I found no less than fourteen lies and/or misrepresentations, and I’m not even Catholic!

In order of their appearance:
[li]This and this panel is typical right off the bat, showing anyone who does not think like Jack Chick to be ill-mannered, rude and really an asshole. Certainly nobody you’d want to spend an afterlife with![/li][li]The Priest in this panel says “I have forgiven all his sins.” The Catholic church does not say that a Priest forgives since, only that he is a man of God who listens, not at all unlike a Pastor or Reverend.[/li][li]Here the Priest says that John will go to purgatory and then Heaven, and I do not believe that the Catholic church teaches this.[/li][li]Here the guy claims that the church told him that works is what mattered. The church does not teach this.[/li][li]This is a bogus claim as boldfaced a lie and/or misunderstanding of Catholic traditions as “It’s just a theory” is a retort to evolution. Catholics do not “pray to the blessed virgin,” and neither does the Pope.[/li][li]Here is complains that since mass is not in Scriptures, God doen’t dig it. There are a ton of things not in Scripture that Protestants do or think, and it is unreasonable to think that they are therefore “wrong.”[/li][li]I’m not sure what is wrong with this, but I’m sure someone can tell me that what is represented here is not a tenet of Catholicism. It just doesn’t smell right.[/li][li]This panel implies that the Catholic church think that all you need is Baptism to be saved, and no Catholic believes this. They may say that it is essential to be baptized, but not that it’s the be-all and end all.[/li][li]Also, how can this guy say that he was tought that works is what matters earlier and then claim that Baptism is all that was needed here? I’d say this shows John really wasn’t paying attention.[/li][li]I do not believe that the Catechism states that “being baptized as a baby made me a Christian.” (emphasis mine) as it says here.[/li][li]I think that this panel speaks for itself.[/li][li]The Catholic Church does not call itself “the one true church,” but that all worshippers of Christ make up this, not like it says here.[/li][li]In that same panel, God seems awful happy to throw poor John into the “lake of fire” if you ask me. I was unaware He enjoyed this action.[/li][li]The whole thing closes here with commentary about how you shouldn’t “trust a religion instead of” Him. I believe that the Catholics could say the same thing about the Baptists if they were so inclined.[/li][/ol]
I’m sure that a Catholic person (not just someone with Catholic relatives) could elaborate on this, and correct me in places where I am mistaken, but I did want to show how incorrect this way with reality.

It amazes me that people do feel this way. And if it seems I am taking this awfully personally for someone who is not a Catholic, I saw my very devout and not perfect but wonderful grandmother die, and then my asshole preacher brother-in-law openly questioned her salvation - essentially saying she was in Hell - while the body was still warm.

(And on an unrelated note, LOOK AT THAT GREAT vB CODING JOB!!) :smiley:

Yer pal,

One month, one week, three days, 18 hours, 33 minutes and 27 seconds.
1630 cigarettes not smoked, saving $203.86.
Life saved: 5 days, 15 hours, 50 minutes.

I just saw a brief article in the newspaper yesterday (Chicago Tribune) indicating that the Methodists (I think) have decided that Mormonism is far enough away from standard Christianity that any Mormon converting to the Methodists must undergo a baptism as if they were not Christians.

So, to sum up the multitude of wonderful and interesting replies, the answer to your question…

Yes, yes it is.

I like this. I know some Free Methodists who don’t think the United Methodists are Christians because of the “gay marriage/pastor” thing. I know some Pentecostals who think the Episcopalians are too “high church” and are all damned forever. There are Missouri Synod Lutherans who feel the same way about the American Lutheran Church because they allow “just anybody” to walk in and participate in communion services, and there are Black Bumper Mennonites who think Mennonites with chrome bumpers are all going to Hell.

As a formerly Catholic atheist, I’d say your analysis of the Chicks is on target, Satan. As to Item no. 7, I think this is an example of a fundamentalist misperception that Catholics deny that Jesus’ sacrifice completed their salvation, but that the sacrifice must continually be renewed by the mass. The church states clearly in their doctrine the belief that “Catholics and believing Protestants alike acknowledge that as Christians we venerate in the bloody sacrifice of the Cross the one, universal, absolute Sacrifice for the salvation of the world.” I notice that Catholics “celebrate” the mass; I always took that to mean pretty much the same thing as when we say we “celebrate” someone’s birthday. Obviously we don’t mean that they are born again(!) every year, but that we are taking the time to reflect on their lives. In the same way, by the mass, Catholics are taking the time to commemorate and reflect on the meaning of the sacrifice that is central to their beliefs. The quote above is from the relevant chapter from the Catholic Encyclopedia, where this is explained much better, although a lot more wordily. Here is another quote from the same page, that I think expresses it well: “The sacrifice once offered on the Cross filled the infinite reservoirs to overflowing with healing waters but those who thirst after justice must come with their chalices and draw out what they need to quench their thirst. In this important distinction between objective and subjective redemption, which belongs to the essence of Christianity, lies not merely the possibility, but also the justification of the Mass.”

As far as 7, I’m pretty sure the Mass is meant as a reminder of the Last Supper - the “Do this in memory of Me” thing.

2 is kinda confusing. When I was a wee lad in Catholic school, we were always told that priests had the power to forgive sins based Matt 16:19 (or Matt 18:18). Some more recent posts seem to diagree, though.

As far as I know, 3 is taught (see

David B wrote:

Note to self:

Get groceries
Return library books
Don’t convert to Methodism
Walk dog, feed fish

I believe these folks are using the term ‘Christian’ as shorthand for ‘born-again, Bible-believing Christian’. To them, it’s one and the same, of course. Catholics aren’t Christians because they don’t give much credence to the notion of being ‘born-again’, whatever their attitudes toward the Bible (which are suspect in their eyes for the reasons Tom described. To them, my professed Christianity is pretty dubious because I don’t buy the notion of Biblical inerrancy - and because I’m not an inerrantist, they regard my claim to have been ‘born again’ with considerable skepticism: at best, I’m a major backslider in their eyes.

Christian Scientists and Mormons get it both ways from these types: not only are they outside the ‘born-again’ universe, but they have had the temerity to come up with new books of their own that they claim are Scripture. That’s about fifty times as bad as believing that the Bible may be in error, in their eyes. Christian Scientists probably aren’t as hot a topic with the fundies, though, since it’s a church that’s clearly getting old and dying out, while the Latter-Day Saints keep on growing impressively.

That’s my take on what these callers are talking about. Lord knows I’ve spent enough of my life among people who saw the world this way; if you go back far enough, there was a time when I was one of them.